The Oscar statues backstage at the Academy Awards in Hollywood.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Stockdale High School

Opinion: The importance of the Academy Awards rule change

Little eight-year-old me felt like she had one purpose in life: to watch every single move made on Earth. And let me tell you, absorbing so many movies with an all-white cast really did a number to my self-esteem.

I felt so ugly and alienated. None of the girls who the boys choose looked like me. For a while, I thought it was my fault. I was the different one, I’m the minority. Pretty recently I realized, it’s not my fault. It’s Hollywood’s fault.

Out of the 7 billion people in the world, a vast majority of them being people of color, and yet every cast of the movie look like the Brady Bunch. It’s not even funny how much Hollywood lacks in terms of showcases the stories of minorities. 

Watching a plethora of cinematic masterpieces, most are aware of the lack of diversity in most. Almost none of the actresses looked remotely similar to me, and not just because I was eight years old and they were adults.

This trend continued as I grew older, and I quickly realized I would have to settle with a handful of Indian actresses being the closet thing my Pakistani self would get to representation in Hollywood. Mindy Kaling and Jameela Jamil, two gorgeous and hilarious individuals, were the best I was gonna get.

Trying to swallow the hurt, I turned to finding ANY person of color to try and relate to in a show. Also a major let down. More often than not, these POC were just characters to check off the diversity box for a movie or show and were characters that helped perpetuate the already existing stereotypes.

Eventually, I gave up trying to find someone who talked and walked like me or even someone who might have had similar experiences growing up as a second-generation immigrant. Instead of expecting representation, I have come to be pleasantly surprised whenever I see a diverse cast.

That’s not ok.

Young children of color should be able to turn on the TV and see men and women who look like them. Asian children should be able to see beautiful actors who remind them of themselves, and not just in the context of the nerdy math major. Black children should get coming of age movies that don’t involve slavery or violence. Latino children deserve a show where they aren’t shown as gang members.

But most importantly, we all deserve to see funny and lively characters with substance because we are people of substance. We are more than a small checkmark on your list of diversity.

That is why the Academy Awards choice of rules for the best picture starting 2024 is so important. It aims to try and increase opportunities for minorities in the industry. Those attempts deserve to be recognized and rewarded.

I don’t want another girl to feel how eight-year-old me felt, but more importantly, this is a step forward in trying to showcase a variety of beauty, experiences, and stories.